If there has been one constant complaint about the Trinity Railway Express during its 20 years, it’s that there aren’t enough trains.
The commuter rail service already offers 46 trains on a typical weekday — 24 heading west toward Fort Worth, and 22 eastbound for Dallas. Also, there are special trains to events such as Dallas Mavericks and Stars games.
But still, there are times of day when riders must wait up to two hours for a train. Those gaps in service, combined with the fact that on most evenings the trains stop running well before many restaurants close, have contributed to a drop in ridership, officials believe.
TRE officials aim to close many of those gaps, with a possible 51 percent increase in the frequency of trips between North Texas’ two largest cities beginning this fall.
“People would like us to have later hours, so they could go to Fort Worth or Dallas and stay later without worrying about having to drive home,” said Laura Hanna, spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
The authority, also known as the T, co-owns the TRE along with Dallas Area Rapid Transit. TRE began service in 1996, following the old Rock Island Line route from downtown Dallas to south Irving, CentrePort/DFW Airport, Bell Station near Hurst, Richland Hills and two stops in downtown Fort Worth.
The rail route roughly follows the north shore of the Trinity River, through industrial areas.
The trains run a full schedule Monday through Friday, with trains arriving as frequently as every 20 minutes during peak periods, and a reduced schedule on Saturday. There is no Sunday service.
9,127 people ride Trinity Railway Express on a typical weekday, down from an all-time high of 11,092 on the average in 2008.
The expanded TRE service isn’t scheduled to begin until Oct. 24, and has not yet been approved by the T and DART boards.
Residents’ input will be sought in a public hearing before any changes are made, Hanna said. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 9, and the T and DART boards would then consider approving the new schedule in September.
No extra cost
T and DART officials believe the service can be expanded without buying additional rail cars, hiring additional train operators or encountering other expenses.
On the contrary, the cost of running TRE is expected to decrease to $16.1 million in fiscal 2017, compared with $16.8 million in the current year, Todd Plesko, DART planning and development vice president, told a planning committee last month. Many factors are contributing to the reduced costs, including lower fuel and locomotive costs, according to a committee presentation.
Expanding service includes a combination of strategies that require no additional investment, said Bob Baulsir, T vice president of railroads and procurement.
People would like us to have later hours, so they could go to Fort Worth or Dallas and stay later without worrying about having to drive home.
Laura Hanna, Fort Worth Transportation Authority
Instead, routes in which trains often run empty for end-of-day and out-of-service runs could be opened up to passengers.
Also, special game trains that stop at Dallas’ Victory Station only when events are happening at the American Airlines Center could become a permanent part of the printed, everyday schedule.
“We negotiated new terms with our operations and maintenance contractor and we identified some efficiencies that would allow us to provide more service at no increased cost,” Baulsir said.
The goal is to increase the number of trips per week to 384, up from 254.
The proposal includes waits of no more than 60 minutes between trains during midday on weekends, compared with up to two hours now. Also, trains would begin running three hours earlier on Saturdays and would run later on Friday and Saturday nights.
Riding Trinity Railway Express
Number of riders on the Fort Worth-to-Dallas trains, by fiscal year:
- 2013 — 2,107,388
- 2014 — 2,283,895
- 2015 — 2,166,911
Source: Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the T).